I remember the routine well- I am willing to bet many of you do too. In college, around 4pm on any given Thursday afternoon, my friends and I would begin scrambling around Philadelphia desperately searching for that perfect top to pair with our favorite jeans or skinny black pants to wear for the "big" event of the weekend. Said "big" event was usually some sort of sorority or fraternity date party or an off-campus house party or group bar outing where we wanted to look fun and cute but somewhat low-maintenece (hence the idea of a top as opposed to a dress...at least with a top, you could be like-"Look at me, I just threw this on with my old, torn up jeans and don't I look amazing?".) (Even if the jeans were purchased with perfectly frayed holes and most likely more expensive as a result of the "distressed" finish.)
This ritual continued into our post-college NYC years, when we would meet after work at H&M, Bloomingdales, Saks, Zara or that giant Forever 21 in Union Square scouring the racks for something festive yet tasteful (for first dates with finance guys that we wanted badly to impress without looking like we cared at all) but not too tasteful (because after that date ended we were most certainly meeting our girlfriends out at a silly club where "tasteful" didn't translate to getting past the velvet rope.)
These pieces of clothing that overfilled our small city closets and rarely got worn more than once came to be known as "party tops", and I recently realized that somehow, a decade later, I owned not a one. When it came time to go out for a nice dinner with other couples or meet up with my girlfriends for cocktails, I had NOTHING to wear. My closet presented me with three options: a dress (too formal), a draped tee shirt (too casual) or a sweater/blazer (too daytime.)
Since the "party tops" of yore, traditionally embellished with sequins and held up by spaghetti straps, don't feel like sensible purchases for a 36 year old mom living in Westport, CT., I feel compelled to share a trio of sophisticated versions that every grown woman should own. Each works well with multiple denim styles and leather skinny pants, and are comfortable enough to wear for a seated dinner yet festive enough to feel appropriate for a girls night out.
1:MLM Label Off Shoulder Top: No matter how many pounds one may have put on over the holidays, let's all give thanks for the blessing that is our pretty-much-always-bony clavicle and shoulder region. This top is business-meets-bohemian, and even though the cut is billowy, the fabric is super light and doesn't look bulky. Plus, it is well-priced and, picture it with white jeans come summer- I mean, you will for sure wear this puppy all year long.
2: Exclusive For Intermix Alberta Ruffle Sleeve Top: I walked by this top like 5 times in Intermix before I decided to try it on- and I am so glad I did. While I rarely, if ever, use the term "statement sleeves", there is really no other way to describe this piece- the ruffled sleeves are not prissy at all, and the fact that they are cut long makes your arms look long and lean. Yes, it is slightly cropped but, in the event that you don't have the extra long torso of a swimsuit model (I certainly don't), it provides the perfect amount of midsection coverage. For decency insurance purposes, however, I do strictly wear mine with my most high waisted jeans. Because you never can be too careful- who knows what kind of flailing/dancing will occur after the second Titos on the rocks with a splash of soda?
3: Exclusive For Intermix Perris Cold Shoulder Pleated Blouse: This is the top that inspired the post. I wore it on New Year's Eve, I wore it to dinner last weekend, and I plan to wear it to my next cocktail party. Showing off shoulders is perhaps the most subtle and sophisticated way for a grown woman to look sexy, not to mention it offers built in air conditioning when you find yourself at a restaurant or in a house where the heat is turned on a tad too high for your liking. The pleating provides just the right amount of swingy movement, and I absolutely love the extra long, bell-shaped cut of the arms. Plus, the fitted turtleneck is kind of dramatic, in a good way- demanding you wear your hair up in some sort of ponytail or bun, which is ideal when you are working with hair that may not have been blow dried, errrrr....washed, in days.